Category Archives: Politics

Let My People Be

Welcome to Part II of National Governors Association Week at Deprogramming101.  In Part I, I shared my respect for the GOP governors and their staffs with whom I worked during my tenure at the association.  There were, of course, exceptions.  I share the following personal experience to provide context for today’s post.

In the mid-1990s, I attended an off-camera working session on proposed national education goals chaired by then NGA chair Carroll Campbell, the Republican governor of South Carolina.  Campbell made this topic the primary focus of his year as leader of the bi-partisan organization.  During the discussion, Republican Mississippi governor Kirk Fordice said he hoped the final version would be consistent with Christian values.  Campbell asked his colleague if a more inclusive approach would be to refer to traditional Judeo-Christian values.  Fordice replied, “If that’s what I meant, that is what I would have said.”  I was reminded of this episode watching an excerpt from Donald Trump’s infomercial for “God Bless America” Bibles.  Having been excluded from this Fordice-inspired grift, I decided it was time for my tribe to get a piece of the action.

The following are excerpts from an infomercial for the “God Save Democracy (GSD)” Haggadah, available at most temple gift stores and on-line booksellers for 60 shekels ($16.32 USD).

Do you wish your Passover seder was more relevant to the issues of the day yet still contained many of the traditional symbols and familiar passages associated with the exodus from Egypt?  Now you can have both.  This year, conduct your Passover celebration using the new “God Save Democracy” Haggadah.  Draw parallels between the Israelites’ deliverance from Pharaoh and our efforts to loosen the grip of an equally enraged, cruel tyrant who opposes all who do not pledge fealty to his every whim, without jettisoning the joy of reading prayers, singing songs and retelling of the story of Moses and the flight from Egypt. 

How does the GSD Haggadah do that?  By meshing the ancient with the modern.  Here are three examples. 

First, the seder plate where each item depicts an aspect of the exodus in years past and the challenges of present day.

  • Celery/Symbolizes how Donald Trump “stalks” women.
  • HORSEradish/Trump’s recommended treatment for Covid if ivermectin is unavailable.
  • Charoset/A reminder of the mishmash that comes out of Trump’s mouth.
  • Egg/In remembrance of days not so long ago when no one called this a human being.
  • Salt Water/Crocodile tears shed by “poor, victim me.”
  • Shankbone/Commemorating Trump’s golf strokes that landed in a penalty zone and miraculously appeared in the middle of a fairway.

Then, of course, there are the Four Questions.

Why is this candidate different from all other candidates?

    • All other candidates accept the outcome of elections.  Why does this candidate accept only elections he wins?
    • All other candidates salute the American flag to demonstrate their allegiance to America?  Why does this candidate salute convicted felons who stormed the U.S. Capitol and beat up policemen?
    • All other candidates promise to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution.  Why does this candidate promise to suspend it when it serves his interests?
    • All other candidates understand global alliances are essential to national security.  Why does this candidate prefer alliances with our adversaries instead of our friends?

And finally, even in celebration of the end of the Israelites’ enslavement, we acknowledge the suffering of everyday Egyptians in imposed on them by the actions of an arrogant and stubborn Pharaoh.  So too must we acknowledge the suffering of all Americans under Trump’s policies and practices.  That is why we spill a drop of wine for each of 10 plagues every American faced during his reign.

  • Charlottesville
  • Obstruction of Justice in the Russia Investigation
  • Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett
  • Emoluments Clause Violations
  • Covid Response
  • Voter Suppression
  • Eight Trillion Dollars Added to the National Debt
  • January 6 Insurrection
  • Mishandling Classified Documents
  • The Dobbs Decision

Want an updated holiday experience that brings the hardship and agony under tyrants in days of old and new into your home yet is optimistic  about an eventual victory by the resistance?  Don’t wait.  Order your “God Save Democracy” Haggadah today.

חג שמח
Happy Holiday!

Disclaimer:  All proceeds from the sale of each and every “God Save Democracy” Haggadah go to the Making Attempts at Theocracy Zero Opportunity (MATZO)   PAC.  Think of each contribution as “unleavened dough,” financing the fight to educate those who cannot read or do not understand the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

 

Wrestling with Bibi

Any Jewish person that votes for Democrats hates their religion. They hate everything about Israel and they should be ashamed of themselves.

~Donald J. Trump/March 18, 2024

What precipitated Trump’s comments during an interview with his former advisor Sebastian Gorka on the latter’s podcast “America First with Sebastian Gorka?”  March 14, 2024 remarks by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.  Schumer’s offense?  According to the Associated Press:

Schumer, the first Jewish majority leader in the Senate and the highest-ranking Jewish official in the U.S., strongly criticized Netanyahu in a 40-minute speech Thursday morning on the Senate floor. Schumer said the prime minister has put himself in a coalition of far-right extremists and “as a result, he has been too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows.”

This is one more indication the Trump/MAGA version of the GOP is no longer “your father’s Republican Party.”  Even far-right antisemites cannot figure out which side they are on.  In January 2023, the Anti-Defamation League with assistance from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC) conducted a year-long research project to explore the roots of the increase in antisemitic rhetoric and incidents in the United States.  The project included interviews with more than 4,000 random individuals conducted in the fall of 2022.  When presented with the statement, “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America,” 39 percent responded this antisemitic trope was either mostly or somewhat true.  Fourteen months later, Donald Trump is now accusing Jewish-Americans of not being loyal enough.

Chuck Schumer does not hate Israel or Judaism.  In fact, his remarks are consistent with long-standing Jewish tradition going back to biblical times.  One would think, Trump, House Speaker Mike Johnson and their evangelical supporters who claim the Old Testament is the literal word of God (when it is convenient to do so), would be the first to come to Schumer’s defense.  I am, of course, referring to Genesis 32:25-29 in which Jacob seeks God’s blessing despite having deprived his older brother Esau of his birthright.

25 Jacob was left alone. And a figure wrestled with him until the break of dawn.
26 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he wrenched Jacob’s hip at its socket, so that the socket of his hip was strained as he wrestled with him.
27 Then he said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” But he answered, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”
28 Said the other, “What is your name?” He replied, “Jacob.”

29 Said he, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with beings divine and human, and have prevailed.”

The phrase “you have striven with beings divine” led to this biblical passage being referred to as “Jacob wrestling with God,” the central message being even a supreme being does not expect his believers to follow blindly.  One might say, this is God telling his followers, “We are not a cult.  It is okay to challenge me.  You will not be punished.  And on occasion, as did Jacob, you might even prevail.”

Not only did Jacob go unpunished, God reaffirms the commitment he originally made to Abraham that his descendants would become a great nation.  Why then would anyone believe Schumer’s questioning the policies of a mere mortal such as Bibi Netanyahu signals hatred of his religion or Israel? He is acting in accordance with one of God’s earliest directives.  If there is a compassionate God, I have no doubt he would welcome, maybe even applaud, Schumer’s efforts to question whether an Israeli government led by Bibi Netanyahu is acting in the best interest of his “children,” whether Jewish or Muslim.

The only thing missing in this narrative is Michael Buffer and his catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!!!”

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Political Plagiarism

Merriam-Webster defines “plagiarism” as a transitive verb meaning “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own use (another’s production) without crediting the source.”  During my time as a professor at Miami University, I always made a distinction between “words” and “ideas”.  Two people, with similar observations and experiences, can independently come up with similar ideas.  I often joke with my wife, “They must have seen yesterday’s blog,” when a Post or Times editorial or op-ed makes the same point I covered before they did.  However, I know two people independently reaching the same conclusion is not a crime.

That is why I always focused on the second definition.  I expected any student who wrote about entrepreneurship as “creative destruction” to credit Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter with coining the phrase.  Knowledge is built on the shoulders of those who came before us.  We need not agree with everything they said or did, but we have a sole obligation to recognize their contribution.

We now have a new kind of plagiarism under the second definition, political plagiarism, which President Biden pointed out during his State of the Union Address.

And thanks — and thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, 46,000 new projects have been announced all across your communities.

And, by the way, I noticed some of you who’ve strongly voted against it are there cheering on that money coming in. And I like it. I’m with you. I’m with you.

My congressman Aaron Bean must have been napping at this point because just four days later he issued a press release about a $147 million federal grant to Jacksonville which included the following.

I’m excited to have worked with Congressman Rutherford to help secure over $147 million in direct grant funding to support the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s master plan to transform 14 historic neighborhoods and downtown into the Emerald Trail.

Where did the money come from?  It was one of 143 projects funded through the Reconnecting Communities Program authorized as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Biden on November 15, 2021.  Bean was not elected to Congress until November 2022, so we do not know how he would have voted on House Bill 3684.  But we do know how John Rutherford, our congressman before redistricting, voted.  He was one of the 201 (out of 203) House Republicans who voted “NAY.”

Now Bean could argue, “If I’d been there, I might have voted for the bill.”  But unlikely, since taking office, he has followed the GOP house leadership on virtually every bill and resolution. But that is speculation.  Therefore, if ever asked, he can honestly say, “I did not vote against HB 3684.”  You know, just like President Bone Spurs claimed he would have come to the rescue of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, “Even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room (a meeting at the White House) would have done the same.”

But honesty is not only about what we do.  It also takes into account what we do not do, which brings us back to definition #2 of plagiarism.  Let me repeat it.  “Use (another’s production) without crediting the source.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)  As we know, the Biden administration worked tirelessly with both Republicans as well as members of their own party to “produce” a filibuster-proof bill that would eventually pass 69-30 in the Senate.  [NOTE:  Florida’s two senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio were among the 30 nays.]  What better example of two congressmen committing political plagiarism than Bean and Rutherford taking credit for something that would not have happened if they and their colleagues had their way.

If they do not want this to be an issue in the 2024 election, they can file a motion with Judge Aileen Cannon claiming Article I of the Constitution is too vague to allow citizens to chastise members of Congress for taking credit for things which they opposed.  I’m sure she would hold a hearing on their motion sometime in December.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

Briefs or Boxers

Since 1952, beginning with Harry Truman, the president of the United States has authorized security briefings for the nominees of both parties by representatives of the government intelligence community.  This courtesy is intended to create “an even playing field,” particularly on occasions when, as is now the case, one candidate is the incumbent.  I refer to it as a courtesy because the practice is not required by law or by federal courts.

Never in the nation’s history has there been a situation when the potential recipient of these briefings is under indictment on 38 counts related to:

  • willful retention of national defense information,
  • conspiracy to obstruct justice,
  • withholding a document or record
  • corruptly concealing a document or record,
  • concealing a document in a federal investigation, and
  • false statements and representations.

Various Joe Biden advisors and supporters have urged the president to forego this tradition based on Jack Smith’s 44 page indictment which documents Trump’s alleged criminal activity.  Especially following the former president’s hosting of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, they suggest Trump would share the briefing contents with his political allies.  Relax!  Individuals who have participated in preparation of the briefings or conducted them describe the content as no different than that regularly provided to members of Congress.  It is limited to country by country assessments and includes no information related to administration responses, methods or sources.

Trump’s team, of course, argues he is entitled to such briefings (not true under any circumstances) because he has done nothing wrong.  What better time to call his bluff.  Therefore, I suggest the White House send the following letter to the presumptive Republican nominee.


White House Office of Presidential Correspondence - Wikipedia


March 11, 2024

Donald J. Trump
Palm Beach, Florida

Donald:

Congratulations on your showing in the Super Tuesday primaries.  With Nikki Haley  suspending her campaign, I have no doubt you will be the Republican nominee in 2024.  As much as I would like to honor the 70 year tradition of providing intelligence briefings to an opponent, I have a greater responsibility to honor my oath to defend and protect the Constitution.  Therefore, I have decided not to authorize such briefings while you are under indictment.

There is, however, a solution to this conundrum.  If you are correct that you have done nothing wrong, you have always had an opportunity to prove that in court.  I suggest, therefore, that you ask your lawyers to withdraw all their motions to dismiss the case and encourage Judge Cannon to schedule the trial as soon as possible.  If a jury of your peers finds you innocent of the charges in the indictment, I will authorize intelligence briefing immediately.  I make this recommendation knowing that, if you prevail, it will be to my electoral detriment, reinforcing your claims the indictment was a case of election interference.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal.  I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
File:Joe Biden Signature.svg - Wikipedia


Trump’s choice is clear.  If he prefer BRIEFS he needs to face a panel of his peers, otherwise known as “Jury-BOXERS”.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP

SOTU Random Thoughts

I just received a phone call from my 101 year-old mother.  “Did you see the president last night?”  I had just spent two days with her during which she once again reminded me of my obligation to her.  “If Trump wins and you decide to leave the country, you know you have to take me with you.”  I joked, “That’s why I’m doing everything I can to make sure Biden wins.” This morning, I wondered if someone had switched out her Ambien for some “happy pill.”  So goes my mother, so goes America.

After several weeks of the most depressing correspondence and phone calls with family, friends and colleagues, I feel no need this morning to talk anyone off the ledge.  Joe Biden did that for all of us last night.  Instead, with the extensive coverage of the State of the Union address, I decided to look for those things that were not mentioned.  Here are my six takeaways to add to the general euphoria.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE TRAMP

The one thing Mom did not like about the broadcast was the number of times they showed Marjorie Taylor Greene.  She wondered why they promote her.  This was the one “off the ledge” moment in our discussion.  I told her I thought they did not show her or the other MAGA lemmings enough.  Biden was making contrasts in policy, but he also talked about decency and playing by the rules.  I want MTG to be the face of Donald Trump’s MAGA party.  She is uncivil, she is dishonest and she does not play by the rules including House rules which forbid partisan attire.  More importantly, she will remind voters that it is MTG and her MAGA colleagues who have blocked legislation that deals with the border, national security, codifying Roe v. Wade and inflation.  That she would rather pursue impeachments without evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors for political theater than do the people’s business.  She is a walking billboard why the MAGA party has proved it cannot govern and why we must return the majority and speakership to the Democrats.

TLAIB OR NOT TLAIB

Photos: Republicans Wear Pins Honoring Laken Riley at Joe Biden's State of the UnionLast week, Representative Rashida Tlaib encouraged Michigan voters to send Joe Biden a message on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  The punditry was awash with the implications for the November election if Muslin-Americans and Palestinian sympathizers stayed home.  Did Joe Biden or Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer tell those voters, “We don’t need you,” a la Trump’s response to Haley supporters or Kari Lake’s 2022 rejection of McCain Republicans.  Many Democrats, knowing that a Biden win in Michigan was a foregone conclusion, accepted those voters’ chose as an appropriate opportunity to signal their concern for family and friends living in the war zone.  Last night she and other members of the Democratic conference held up signs that said  “Lasting Ceasefire Now” and “Stop Sending Bombs.”  Some may have been offended, but what better place than Congress to generate an actual policy debate.  Compare that to Congressman Troy Nehls (R-TX) who wore a tee-shirt under his jacket with the Trump mug shot and the words, “Never Surrender!”

Where was Congresswoman Tlaib following Biden’s address?  Did she walk out of the chamber like so many disgruntled (and hopefully embarrassed) members on the other side of the aisle?  No, as this picture shows, she is standing behind the president (literally).  She had to know there would be video and images of her with Biden.  The message.  We may still be unhappy, but this is someone who at least is trying to avoid a humanitarian crisis as evidenced by his announcement of the makeshift port to speed delivery of food and other necessities to Palestinian civilians.  On a night when Biden made the election about clear choices, I have no doubt Tlaib, given the alternative of a second Trump administration, will encourage her constituents to make the right choice.  (For the record, Representative Ilhan Omar encouraged a similar protest in the Minnesota primary though she endorsed Biden the day after he officially announced he was running for reelection.)

THE NASCAR SOTU

The overnight TV ratings for last night’s State of the Union are not yet available, but I predict the total may top Biden’s two previous addresses.  In 2022, over 38 million viewers tuned in.  Last year that number declined to 27.3 million.  The forthcoming number to watch is the Fox News viewership.  For weeks, right wing media promised their viewers a NASCAR race with Joe Biden driving a dilapidated late model vehicle which would be involved in multiple car wrecks.  Hopefully, the promotion worked. The only car wrecks were those occasions when Speaker Mike Johnson had to decide if stopping fentanyl at the board was worth a standing ovation (he chose NO) or every time Republican senators and representatives had their heads bowed in shame when Biden reminded them they were on the wrong side of virtually every issue and history.

BAD AD TIMING

This morning the Make America Great Again super PAC ran an ad titled “Jugular” on MSNBC, CNN, Fox NEWS and Newsmax.  It shows the president stumbling on the stairs up to Air Force One, verbal gaffes and asks the question, “Can Joe Biden survive until 2029?”  That might have played well a month ago, but not the morning after the State of the Union which produced the following headlines.

~Fiery Biden takes on GOP, makes case for second term (Washington Post)
~A Forceful Biden Takes On Trump and His Own Doubters (New York Times)
~State of the Union Shows There’s Life in the Old Boy Yet (Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal)
~Biden Roars on Big Night, Faces Down Critics (Drudge Report)
~He Nailed It (GOP Strategist Sarah Longwell/CNN)

Noonan’s op-ed was not just a kudos on Biden’s performance.  It was a change of heart.  On February 22, she wrote:

A good thing for the president: If he does a perfectly adequate job, the press will be inclined to call it brilliant. Expectations are low. There’s a politesse about State of the Union coverage, nobody wants to pounce. The media have been slapped around recently for taking notice of Mr. Biden’s age after three years of ignoring it.

Bad news: People won’t be impressed if anchors call it brilliant, because our media world is all broken up in pieces and anchors speak to mere shards. And most Americans aren’t watching. Viewership declines each year.

This morning she revised her assessment.

The great question the past month was about his persona. Would he walk in shakily? When he was done, would we be using words like old, frail, incapable, embarrassing? We won’t. People will say that guy has a lot of fight in him. He was wide awake, seemed to be relishing the moment, did not seem to tire much, and in fact improved as the speech moved along.

There are 10 to 13 percent undecided voters if the polls are accurate.  As you know, I have also argued Trump’s 45 percent is a ceiling.  Biden’s 43 percent is a floor.  Prior to last night’s speech, a March 6 Emerson poll now has Biden at +2.  The March 3 Morning Consult survey now has Biden +1.  Even in those polls where Biden still trails, most of which were completed before the end of February, the contest in now within the margin of error. 

Historically, an incumbent running for a second term gets a bump from their election year SOTU address.  Bill Clinton did in 1996 as did Barack Obama in 2012.  There was a lot of Democratic handwringing back then as the polls showed both behind to their opponents.  In the post-SOTU polls, the actual numbers are noise.  The trends are the signal.

YOU CALL THAT LEADERSHIP?

House Speaker Mike Johnson gave his team a pep talk at a closed-door meeting of the GOP conference the day before the SOTU.  He told his colleagues:

Decorum is the order of the day.  We don’t need to be shrill, you know, we got to avoid that. We need to base things upon policy, upon facts, upon reality of situations. Let them do the gaslighting, let them do the blaming.

How did that work out, Mikey?  Even when he signaled for rowdy GOP members to tamp it down, they did not respond.  If Johnson’s world view is what he says it is, I guess it was God’s plan for there to be such an ineffective speaker of the house to remind us what true leadership looks like.

I WISH I COULD DO THAT

I wonder how many people stayed tune to watch Biden try to leave the House chamber.  Even when Speaker Johnson ordered the lights dimmed, the celebration did not end.  Joe Scarborough compared it to football players lingering in the locker room after a Super Bowl victory.  You don’t want to lose that great feeling.  There was one moment, however, where I found myself admiring Joe Biden for his physical ability.

An African-American, female representative wanted to take a selfie with the president.  She was so nervous her hand was shaking.  Biden took her hand and steadied the cell phone.  I suffer from a familial tremor.  When I saw that I thought, “Hell, I’m seven years younger and I couldn’t do that.”  And then I remembered, that was the perfect metaphor for “the steady hand at the helm” he promised in 2020 and will again this election cycle.

For what it’s worth.
Dr. ESP